Maternal alcohol use and children’s emotional and cognitive outcomes in rural South Africa
Background. Alcohol use in South Africa (SA) is increasing. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that SA is the third-largest drinking population in Africa, with the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the world. Internationally, parental drinking during childhood is a risk factor for poor child mental health, behavioural problems and weaker educational outcomes in middle childhood. However, parental alcohol use in Africa is under-researched, and much of the literature on maternal alcohol consumption is restricted to clinical and pregnancy samples.
Objectives. To investigate alcohol use and hazardous drinking (HD) among mothers/primary caregivers of children aged 7 - 11 years in a rural SA cohort. We explored risk factors for drinking and the association between HD and child behaviour/cognition.
Methods. The primary outcome measure was the WHO Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) using the standardised cut-off for HD (≥8). Secondary measures were the Patient Health Questionnaire Depression Scale (PHQ-9), Patient Health Questionnaire General Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), Parenting Stress Index, short form (PSI-36), Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL, parent reported), Kaufman Developmental Assessment Battery (KABC-II) for child cognition, and Neuropsychological Assessment Battery, 2nd edition, subtests (NEPSY-II) for executive function. We compared characteristics of those drinking/not drinking, using χ2 tests, and modelled outcomes on parenting stress, cognitive outcomes and CBCL scores for children using logistic regression analysis. We grouped mothers/caregivers engaged in HD to examine its effect on parent/child outcomes using t-tests to test for significant differences.
Results. Of 1 505 women (1 266 mothers and 239 caregivers) with 1 536 children, 12% reported consuming alcohol and 3% reported HD. Higher maternal/caregiver age (31 - 40 years, adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.57 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.4 - 0.9); >41 years, aOR 0.30 (95% CI 0.2 - 0.5)), education (matriculation, aOR 0.49 (95% CI 0.3 - 0.9); post matriculation, aOR 0.30 (95% CI 0.1 - 0.6)), and a stable relationship with the father (aOR 0.6 (95% CI 0.4 - 1.0)) were associated with no alcohol use. Food insecurity increased the odds of alcohol use (aOR 1.52 (95% CI 1.1 - 2.1)), while parental mental health (parenting stress, anxiety) and child mental health problems were associated with approximately double the odds of consuming alcohol in univariate analysis. Children of HD mothers/caregivers had higher mean scores for psychological problems (CBCL total score: no HD (mean 45.0) v. HD (mean 48.9); p=0.029) and lower cognitive scores (KABC Learning Scale: no HD (mean 14.3) v. HD (mean 12.8); p=0.017).
Conclusions. While HD rates were low, maternal/caregiver alcohol use negatively impacted on parenting and children’s behavioural/cognitive outcomes. International evidence suggests that integrated approaches engaging parents and families may be more effective for parent-child outcomes than individual psychiatric or medical care for the parent on their own.
T J Rochat, Africa Health Research Institute, Durban, South Africa; MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways to Health Research Unit, School of Community Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
B Houle, School of Demography, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; CU Population Center, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colo., USA
A Stein, MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK
J Mitchell, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town, South Africa
R M Bland, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow, Scotland, UK; Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, UK
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Date published: 2019-06-28
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